The small and medium-sized aviation industry in Africa is unable to tap into the continent’s expanding income levels due to a lack of financing, said Nicholas Watson, director of the AVEX International Airshow.
Watson’s company will host the Aviation Unity Summit at the AVEX International Aviation Airshow, which will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh between November 7-10.
The airshow will discuss obstacles, such as how the industry can develop much needed skill sets in the market, which can be achieved through establishing training, schools as well as proper ground handling and air maintenance standards, Watson noted.
Against this backdrop, AVEX’s goal is to create a platform to bring industry players together — such as Khader Mattar, Bombardier’s regional vice president, as well as Hassan Hassan, chairman of the Egyptian Aviation Authority — to discuss the challenges that the African industry faces in ensuring that the continent’s newfound wealth is capitalized upon.
Commenting on state of play of the African aviation industry, Watson explained, there are only two internationally certified African carriers — EgyptAir and South African Airlines — with international reach that can take advantage of the growing number of consumers that want to fly to and from the continent, signifying that more can be done.
He explained that local companies lack proper financing to buy planes from manufacturers: Aviation firms can build the planes, there is demand from consumers to fly to and from destinations in Africa, but local firms are unable to shore up sufficient financing to purchase necessary aircraft.
Safety concerns are also top priority for consumers when considering whether or not to fly with an African carrier, which Watson highlighted as being another pivotal issue holding the industry back. To overcome these issues, international standards must be adopted, which can be achieved through introducing up-to-date industry knowledge, he stated.
The one-day summit hopes to be the impetus toward that end by ensuring that current and future African airlines can transform into global industry players through issue awareness and an exchange of ideas, which Watson believes, will eventually translate into growth for national economies through bolstered tourism and international business.
Watson also noted that security is a further concern amongst potential travelers to the continent, yet he is confident that the political will is present in many African countries to tackle the issue head on.
He cited South Africa’s ability to calm its security environment in the run up to the 2010 World Cup, as well as Egypt’s ability to continue to attract tourists in spite a spat of terrorist attacks aimed at tourist in recent years, citing Sharm El-Sheikh’s resilience and vibrancy as a top tourist destination.
In spite of the challenges, Watson is optimistic about the future of the industry on the continent: It is a growth market, with no end in sight, he affirmed.
Indeed, Africa is expected to get 300 business jet deliveries from 2010-2019, with a fleet growth compound annual growth rate of approximately 8 percent; the fleet will grow to 500 aircraft by 2019.
In the Middle East, the airplane market is valued at $390 billion for 2010-2029, while $86 billion is invested in airport expansions over the next 15 years. In Egypt, $800 million is slated for upcoming airport projects.
Moreover, the year-on-year passenger traffic growth rate is 10.9 percent versus a global growth rate of 5.3 percent only. While Africa on the other hand, is posting a traffic growth rate, which is on par with the global rate, of 5.7 percent per year.
Watson also mentioned that for Bombardier alone, for example, 450 business jet deliveries are expected to be made to the region from 2010 to 2019, with the fleet expanding to 730 aircraft by the year 2019 — a compound annual growth rate of 8 percent.
The strategic thinking behind holding the airshow and the Aviation Unity Summit in Egypt, he said, is because the country is well placed strategically between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as between the east and west.
He foresees Egypt becoming a regional hub, bringing travelers not only to its own country for business and leisure, but also acting as a transit point for European fliers seeking to venture deeper into Africa and the Middle East.
Furthermore, he pointed out, EgyptAir, which will be present at the airshow, can provide a unique case study for other African airlines that would like to replicate the company’s success. The airline has made strides in the past three to five years: “They successfully transformed their image to customers, were able to drive profits, have provided solid training to staff, and the company is an internationally certified carrier.”
He continued by stating that the company’s success is physically visible: “They are buying aircraft” to serve growing demand for their service.
Yet for Egypt to fulfill its regional potential, national governments and private enterprise in Africa must build the proper infrastructure, purchase safe, modern aircraft, and guarantee that staff both on the ground at airports and in the planes are trained and certified to ensure a safe flight for business and leisure travelers.